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Attractive, Durable Materials – Alternative to Granite

July 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog

After many years of popularity for high-end countertops, granite is facing growing competition from such versatile, durable materials as solid surface acrylics and engineered quartz.

These alternative materials have many of granite’s advantages, including its attractive appearance, explained Lauren Hill, a designer in MarKraft Cabinets’ Selection Center. But the high-tech surfaces overcome the drawbacks of natural stone slabs.

For example, granite is porous. It requires a top-coat sealer, which must be renewed periodically. A worn or damaged sealer coat lets stains and bacteria into the stone. Granite’s strengths also can be weaknesses. It’s hard, but that makes it brittle, so it can crack or chip. It has interesting natural patterns, but these make it difficult to precisely match colors or patterns.

Solid surface counters are manufactured from a tough acrylic. Best-known brands are Corian and Hi-Max. Solid surface materials come in a wide variety of looks, such as solid colors or fine-grained patterns that can mimic natural stone. Pieces are easily cut to fit. The slabs can be fused together, eliminating the visible seams that are unavoidable with natural stone.

This impervious material won’t harbor bacteria and needs no sealer. While solid-surface counters will show scratches, these can be polished out—much simpler than refinishing damaged stone slabs. Sinks can be seamlessly integrated.

“Entry-level” grades are comparable in price to granite, with higher-end solid-surface counters running just a bit more.

For a harder surface that combines real stone with high-tech engineering, quartz surfaces are the way to go. Natural quartz crystals – one of the components in natural granite – are bonded with an epoxy resin into slabs that can be fabricated much like granite. These materials, with such brand names as Silestone, Zodiaq, Cambria and Hanstone, are heat-resistant, stain-resistant, and impervious.

“Quartz is the cutting-edge material for the interior designers we work with,” Lauren said, especially favored because of its versatile color options. Lighter colors are popular in the newest kitchen designs, and quartz is available in whites and pale grays not found in granite.

Quartz can be engineered to look like natural stone, but it’s also available in a range of colors and patterns not found in nature.

Either drop-in or undermount sinks work well with quartz counters. Many designers and homeowners are finding that quartz’s versatility and durability easily justifies its higher cost.

MarKraft’s Selection Center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 5424 Oleander Drive, Suite 9; evenings and Saturdays by appointment.